To play in Madrid against Atletico undoubtedly represents one of the most difficult outings for an opposition side. In the last five years, two of which ended in the final of the Champions League, much like that of Juventus. Diego Simeone's team have unleashed a series of performances that are worth taking note of, because each one highlights the qualities of Los Colchoneros.
Atletico Madrid and the Champions League
It was an all-Spanish affair – something that had happened frequently over the years in the Champions League. In the first leg at Camp Nou, the red and whites scared the Blaugrana with a 1-1 draw, with a goal from a former Juventus player, Diego. In the return fixture at Vincent Calderon, the atmosphere was electrifying to suit the grand occasion. Koke’s goal was enough to send Atletico through to the semi-finals. On closer inspection, though, the gap between the two sides could have been even bigger as Adrian and David Villa both hit the woodwork. In the same year, Atletico would go on to win the league title too, claiming a three point advantage over Barcelona in the final standings.
In the first leg, Hakan Calhanoglu was the deciding factor in favour of the Germans. In the return to Atletico – with Mario Mandzukic leading the attack – they levelled the agregate with a goal from Mario Suarez. However, 90 minutes wasn’t enough to decide the tie. Arda Turan put out a great display, but his performance wasn’t enough to decide the outcome. It went down to penalties. Two errors were made from the offset: Raul Garcia fired high, while Jan Oblak denied Calhanoglu from the spot. Another two mistakes followed – one by for each side – with Tobrak and Koke failing to hit the back of the net. Fernando Torres then stepped up and beat Leno. It didn’t go as well for Kiessling, who made a quick run-up typical of those who want to break the deadlock and instead ended up not beating his man. This meant Atletico progressed to the final.
It was Simeone against Pep Guardiola, and it was necessary for Atletico to overturn the 2-1 result sustained in Munich in order to obtain their ticket to the final in Milan. The game followed the script that was expected: Los Colchoneros started strong and after 10 minutes Saul Niguez invented an extraordinary action that ended with a shot that kisses the inside post: 1-0. Bayen then reacted, with a possession percentage that reached 75%. Atletico’s defence was called into action and they could have turned the scoreline 2-0 in favour of them after Fernando Torres – who was assisted by Antoine Griezmann – beat Alaba and fired at goal. For the second time in three years, El Cholo and his charges progressed into the final, through pressing and determination.
Atletico could have easily been eliminated, but they continued to demonstrate their characteristics, regardless of the 3-0 defeat at Bernabeu (see photo above), courtesy of a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo. Atletico stunned their cousins with goals from Saul Niguez and Griezmann in the opening 15 minutes. However, a defensive error put their comeback out of reach when Isco ruined their hopes with a goal to make it 4-2 on aggregate. But one thing is for sure, El Cholo’s team once again confirmed their warrior side.
The previous Champions League campaign saw Atletico Madrid fall a step behind, after suffering elimination in the group stages. But what pride in any case, which was confirmed in the win over Roma courtesy of goals from Griezmann and Gameiro (who faced Juventus this season in the wins over Valencia). Their victory in the final of the 2017-18 Europa League final and their presence in the group stages of this year’s tournament is proof that they will be tough to beat.